Earlier this month, social media influencer Revant Himatsingka (Foodpharmer) raised a question mark over the purported health benefits of Mondelez’s Cadbury Bournvita – he released a video on social media claiming that the popular milk additive has high sugar content and its consumption could lead to diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Shortly afterwards, Mondelez sent him a notice to take the video down. An indicator for us to peep into the hidden sugar that fills our kids foods
All this has clouded the claims of that vitamin-kick in milk additives. To be sure, sugary foods and desserts can be moreish. And the old adage, a little bit of sugar helps the medicine go down, is a justification parents and grandparents often give for giving their children sugar-laden foods.
We are aware of the health effects of sugar on us as adults, but often discount the effects that added, hidden and excessive sugar can have on children – from cavities to juvenile diabetes and a range in-between. So how well do the young tolerate added sugars, and how to protect them against added sugar hidden in packaged foods and syrups and medicines, even? Read on
With childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes on the rise, can we afford to ignore the hidden sugar problem?
“Our body needs sugar, not additional sugar in any form,” explains Dr Vishal Parmar, consultant paediatrician, Wockhardt Hospital Mira Road, Mumbai. “Children need a sound diet with an overall nutrient balance to promote their growth and development. Our bodies tend to break down the carbohydrates into glucose. However, the body does not need additional sugar in the form of colas, sodas, juices, sweets, desserts, and candies. Consuming large amounts of sugar in the form of additives to milk, processed beverages and packaged foods can lead to obesity which can further raise the chances of cancer, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and type 2 diabetes in adult life.”
Some parents desist from giving sweet somethings to their tots early on. Do children below two years of age need sugar? “Ideally white sugar should not be introduced during the early years, especially when the child is less than one year of age,” says Dr Parmar. A tough call as there is hidden sugar in everything: from that cough syrup to that bread loaf to calcium gummies to even that homemade honeyed chicken. The dangers posed for young bodies lurk large, keeping in mind synthetic foods and urban lifestyles that make lip-smacking desserts, confectionery at birthday parties and beyond, and sugary treats galore for kids a reality. When the tiny tots indulge in sweet treats at night, the sugar rush is visible in hyperactivity and subsequent tooth decay. This pattern of consumption also leads to unhealthy cravings as children grow up.
How much is too much?
Neha Pathania, chief dietitian, Paras Health, Gurugram, says, “The amount of sugar considered permissible per day for kids and adults can vary based on factors such as age, sex, weight, and physical activity level.” The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the following limits on added sugars:
Children aged 2-18: No more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of added sugars per day
Women: No more than 6 teaspoons (24 gm) of added sugars per day
Men: No more than 9 teaspoons (36 gm) of added sugars per day.
While white sugar is refined sugar obtained from sugarcane, jaggery, khandsari sugar, and date powder are often considered to be healthier alternatives. Or are they?
“Jaggery is a traditional unrefined cane sugar made by boiling sugar cane juice until it solidifies. Unlike white sugar, jaggery retains some of the minerals and antioxidants that are present in the sugar cane plant. It also has a lower glycemic index than white sugar, which means that it may cause a slower rise in blood sugar levels. However, jaggery is still a form of sugar and should be consumed in moderation. Likewise, khandsari sugar is unrefined cane sugar made by boiling and crystallising sugarcane juice, and retains some of the minerals and antioxidants that are present in the sugarcane plant. Again, khandsari, too, has a lower glycemic index than white sugar, but should be consumed in moderation,” advises Pathania.
“Date powder is a natural sweetener made from dried dates. It contains natural sugars, fibre, and some vitamins and minerals. Unlike white sugar, date powder does not cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels. However, it is still a source of calories and should be consumed in moderation. In general, these alternative sweeteners may offer some health benefits over white sugar due to their lower glycemic index and higher nutrient content. However, they are still sources of sugar and should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. The marginal difference between these sweeteners and white sugar will depend on factors such as the quantity consumed and an individual’s overall diet and health status,” she adds.
Shilpi Madan for MoneyControl.com